Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001)
The beautiful busty ghoul Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) has been around for some time. Serving as the hostess for B-movie classics, Elvira has gained cult status in our society, and I would venture to say you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know who she was.
Elvira’s first feature film was “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” back in 1988. The film delivered the same camp and quick one-liners the hostess with the mostest is known for. So when I heard about its sequel, aptly titled “Elvira’s Haunted Hills,” I was very enthusiastic.
The latest film, released originally in 2001, takes place in Carpathia in 1851 or, more precisely, Transylvania. After being kicked out of her rooming house, Elvira and her maid, Zou Zou (Mary Jo Smith), are picked up by Dr. Bradley Bradley (Scott Atkinson) on their way to Paris. Dr. Bradley offers them lodging at the Hellsubus Castle, which is presided over by Lord Vladimere Hellsubus (Richard O’Brien).
Elvira soon finds herself in all kinds of trouble when she finds she’s a dead ringer for Vladimere’s deceased wife, Elura. Her quick stopover now turns into a long weekend she’ll never forget.
The film, as Peterson explains in the supplemental materials, is a direct homage to the Edgar Allan Poe films directed by the legendary Roger Corman. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I’m not so sure Corman and Poe-film staple Vincent Price would feel that way.
While the film has a few laughs sprinkled here and there and a great little dance number, for the most part, the jokes fall flat. Peterson looks absolutely amazing in the film, but for some reason, the same valley-girl, quick-witted quips we’ve all come to love don’t hit their mark. Maybe too much time has passed since the last film or maybe it was just a problem with to movie as a whole, but something is definitely off.
The stars of the film are Atkinson and O’Brien. They take their characters to new heights of caricature, but the actors have the skills to back it up. Atkinson’s accent as Dr. Bradley is hilarious, and O’Brien’s over the top antics are a treasure to watch.
The biggest problem with “Haunted Hills,” as with most passion projects, is that the subject matter is too near and dear to the people involved and therefore, the film doesn’t live up to its full potential.
I will say Peterson and company make the most of the money. The sets look amazing and the exteriors are wonderful since they actually take place where the film is set. Take that, Hollywood.
As far as schlock value goes, there’s not much to talk about. There are some bad special effects and not a lot of blood, but there is one thing that has schlock written all over it and it’s the standout of the movie in my opinion.
Gabriel Andronache, who plays Adrian the hunky stable stud, doesn’t speak a word in English. Instead of having him work with a dialogue coach or going with another actor, Peterson makes the call of doing some of the worst dialogue dubbing I’ve seen in a long time. The move is completely intentional, and I commend Peterson’s instincts on that one.
The DVD extras are above average. There’s a cool 22-minute “making-of” featurette and an interesting interview with O’Brien. The commentary track featuring Peterson, Smith, Atkinson, Mary Scheer and Sam Irvin is packed with behind-the-scenes tales from the production and makes the film easier to watch the second time around.
“Elvira’s Haunted Hills” is a bust, pun intended. I’m a big fan of the horror hostess, but the movie falls short of its predecessor and leaves the viewer hoping this isn’t the last theatrical calling card we get from our beloved Elvira.